In this competition, dogs are let loose to chase a jack rabbit over desert terrain. A hunt can last from a few seconds to several minutes and cover up to two miles (three kilometers).
"Since dogs are running at full speedsometimes approaching 40 miles (65 kilometers) an hourthis sport is an impressive one to watch," Romanowski said. Once the chase reaches 1,000 yards (914 meters), she said, no other breednot even the greyhoundis faster."
Judges follow the action through binoculars and award points to the dogs for a variety of elements such as speed, agility, and ability to take game. Only sight hounds are allowed to compete. As the name suggests, these canines hunt by sight rather than scent. In addition to salukis, eligible breeds are whippets, greyhounds, Afghan hounds, borzois, Ibizan hounds, pharaoh hounds, Irish wolfhounds, and Scottish deerhounds.
Just as popular as open field coursing is lure coursing. The two sports are essentially the same, except in lure coursing an artificial "rabbit" (usually a white plastic bag) is used and the dogs run a shorter course, 600 to 900 yards (550 to 820 meters). Because less space is needed, events can be held throughout the country. Last year more than half of the registered salukis in the United States were entered in lure coursing events sponsored by the American Sighthound Field Association.
Training for both sports involves an hour each day of off-leash running at high speeds over varied terrain, said Romanowski, who owns the ranking lure-coursing saluki in Canada, named Etoile Noire.
"Salukis have been bred to live complex, physically challenging lives and are not mentally suited for terminal boredom and inactivity," she said. "But for those people who can appreciate the enjoyment of sharing their life with a premier hunting hound, there's nothing better."
Nationalgeographic.com Resources on Dogs
News and Features
A Love Story: Our Bond With Dogs from National Geographic magazine
"Detector Dogs" Sniff Out Smugglers for U.S. Customs
Bear Dogs on Patrol for Problem Grizzlies
Veterans: Dogs of War Deserve a Memorial
Therapy Dogs Seem to Boost Health of Sick and Lonely
Life Is Serious Mission for Rescue Dogs
Crisis-Response Dogs Offer Comfort After Tragedy
Dogs Are "True Heroes" of Iditarod, Race Champ Says
Brooklyn Dog a Rising Star in New York Art Scene
Canine Companions May Help Kids Learn to Read
U.S. Beagle Brigade is First Defense Against Alien Species
Science and Dogs
Scientists Start Deciphering Dog Genome
Human Gestures Fed Dogs' Domestication
Animal Acupuncture: More Pets Get the Point
National Geographic magazine's "Wolf to Woof: The Evolution of Dogs"
News and Features About Other Canids
Coyotes Now at Home in Eastern U.S.
Rare-Dog Search Meets With Success, Then Tragedy
Hi-Tech Tracking Tool Tested in Wolf Recovery Efforts
Scandinavian Wolves on Road to Recovery, Study Says
Most-Endangered Wolves May Be Saved By Vaccine
Is U.S. Safe From Foxhunting Debate?
Related Lesson Plans:
Use National Geographic News articles on dogs in your classroom with these Xpeditions lesson plans.
Lesson Plan: Little Red Riding Hood MeetsA Golden Retriever?
Lesson Plan: Geographical Dog Show
Lesson Plan: From Wolf to Woof
Lesson Plan: The Human Role in Dog Evolution
More About Animals
National Geographic Animals and Nature Guide
Other Web Sites
List of Dog Breeds (American Kennel Club)
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES